Originally from Melbourne Australia, Julia Rhyder joined Harvard in 2021 as Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Rhyder is a scholar of the Hebrew Bible with a dual focus on the compositional history of the Bible and on its transmission and reception in ancient Judaism. Her research is philologically sound and historically grounded, but also conceptually innovative, with a strong emphasis on the use of social-scientific theory to enhance biblical exegesis. Rhyder's main areas of research include: the formation of the Pentateuch, especially the Priestly traditions; the history of Israelite religion, especially during the Persian and Hellenistic periods; and the development of biblical rituals during the Second Temple period.
Rhyder's first monograph, Centralizing the Cult: The Holiness Legislation in Leviticus 17–26 (Mohr Siebeck, 2019), was awarded the 2021 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise. Centralizing the Cult shows how Leviticus 17–26 use ritual legislation to make a new, and distinctive, case as to why the Israelites must defer to a central sanctuary, standardized ritual processes, and a hegemonic priesthood. It further argues that this discourse of centralization reflected historical challenges that faced the priests in Jerusalem during the Persian period: notably, the loss of a royal sponsor, the need to mobilize socioeconomic resources, and the pressure to negotiate with the sanctuary at Mount Gerizim and with a growing diaspora.
Rhyder has since co-edited two books, Text and Ritual in the Pentateuch: A Systematic and Comparative Approach (with Christophe Nihan; Penn State University Press, 2021) and Authorship and the Hebrew Bible (with Sonja Ammann and Katharina Pyschny; Mohr Siebeck, 2022). She has published widely in edited collections and journals, including the Journal of Biblical Literature, Dead Sea Discoveries, and Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. She has served as guest editor for the journals Semitica and Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel. In 2021, Rhyder was honored with the David Noel Freedman Award for Excellence and Creativity in Hebrew Bible Scholarship. Further awards include the Paul-Chapuis Secrétan prize of the University of Lausanne (2018) and conference funding grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (2016; 2017).
Rhyder is currently working on a monograph that explores key texts of the Hebrew Bible and broader Second Temple writings that describe festivals that commemorate warfare. She is also authoring a commentary on the biblical book of Amos.